Le Sacre de la vestale / The Virgin and the Shadow

by Denis Emorine / translated by Phillip John Usher

That evening when he called me up, he told me in a frightened voice, full of anxiety, that we had to meet up.  It was important, vital even that we do so.

 While talking he would stop all of a sudden and let the conversation break off; I could feel how defenseless he was, he was tormented and increasingly distressed.

 I ended up inviting him over to my place when he reticently warned me that he could not go into any more detail on such a delicate topic.

 While waiting for him to arrive, I kept on wondering about this unexpected turn of events: I had known G... for three years. At first, we had met up quite regularly. Eighteen months later, we were meeting up less and less often, rarely even. I couldn’t understand why, all of a sudden, he wanted us to meet up. Why this need for silence that made him hesitate as he spoke these sentences that had obviously been carefully prepared? Three years ago, he had been such an orator.  I wondered what other changes were afoot for him, and for me...


 The doorbell rang, shrill, almost prying; it put an end to my confused thoughts. He was here. Physically, he hadn’t changed: slim, straight brown but messy hair of which a lock reached down and divided up his high forehead, falling all the way down to his glasses which rarely moved from the very end of his nose.

 We were directly opposite each other, awkward, in an uneasy silence; we didn’t dare look each other in the eyes.  In a hand that -I think- was shaking, he took my hand and squeezed it gently.

 “So, this is where you live...” The blandness of his remarks was probably intentional, an effort to open up communication.  He was obviously waiting for me to open fire, but waiting is one of the things I do best: I can when circumstances so require it of me- hide my impatience behind a mask and remain completely unruffled.

 I looked on at him like a cat stares out a mouse. I had the upper hand.  How could someone who used to be so relaxed in conversation shut himself up in this monkish silence?

 He gave in, and he started looked at me, looking at me who was looking at him; his eyes followed mine.

 “For a while now, a strange and penetrating dream...” he started, alluding to his favorite poet Paul Verlaine.  He was still a big reader of French literature, I could see.  “...has turned into an obsession, and imprisons me inside myself. Or maybe I shut myself inside the dream, I don’t know.  This dream directly concerns you, directly; you are implicated in the dream...”

 There it was, the attack had happened.  I had been expecting it, I knew he wouldn’t stay trampled down for long in his defeated and imploring attitude.  He was now more relaxed and started walking around the room; although still somewhat awkward, he was starting to speak with his former confidence. G... was becoming the person I’d known before, his magnetism was coming back, a magnetism due to his quiet and justified projection of his intellectual superiority that he would parade around when striking poses.

 Once again I was carried gently along by his well-constructed sentences, as articulate as they were intelligent. Didn’t he always say: “You can’t be articulate without being smart!  The question, then, is whether to speak like a fool or a wise man!”.

 His speech was as well-oiled as the first days I had known him. All of a sudden, he fell silent, as if he felt awkward.  A revelation, the reason for his visit, made him short of breath: “It’s something quite unexpected; every time I dream, I see myself giving a kind of show in front of you, and you’re the only witness to it, silent and approving.”

 I heard the creaking again. Snap.  I looked at him kindly, encouraging him to carry on.

 “It’s a kind of revelation... Yes, that’s what it is, for I keep making revelations to you, again and again, and each time it’s the same place, in this apartment...”

 I couldn’t understand, or maybe I was too afraid to understand.  Eventually, he ended up putting the cord around his neck: “Perhaps you’d understand this better if I were a woman... Moreover, you have to take into account moral, intellectual (and thus social) prejudices.”

 The door was ajar and opening further onto the truth contained within, onto what might even be called his obsession, but I wanted him to admit it outright, even if I have to provoke him with some subtle game of questions and answers neatly woven together.

 “So, I’m the spectator?”

 “Yes, you’re watching a play, my play, which I’ve planned right up to the smallest details, including the decor and the costumes...”

 He stopped again, confusion on the edge of his lips and covering his cheeks. G... had stumbled over the pronunciation of the word “costumes”, as if this term had walked him too close to some personal system of references which now loaded him with guilt.

 I wasn’t sure what to do, but decided to finish: “So, let’s get to the conclusion.”

 Then, clearly, articulating each syllable, he admitted his dream to me: “I often dream, then, that I’m getting undressed in front of you; it is possible that this physical stripping hides or symbolizes the need for some deeper revelation, but I’m sure that I need to satisfy this desire to be rid of it and reassured.” He was becoming more verbose. “I’m not trying to explain the reasons for this desire; but I need to satisfy it...

 “Would you accept... ?”

 How could I not have accepted?  I was, I admit, somewhat intrigued, curious even to attend this “theater play” that was more like a cabaret striptease than anything else, or at least that is how it seemed.

 My heart was beating at quite a pace. I let G... direct the scene, chose the setting, organize the elements of the decor.

 All of a sudden, he stared at me again:

 “We need some background music.”

 “Do I get to chose?”


 I thought about it... Sensual, light music, something unreal would certainly be suitable.

 “Jeux and the Prelude to Après-midi d’un faune by Debussy.”


 I settled myself down into an armchair, the only one in my whole apartment. I felt like I was at the theater, waiting for the next act.

 The music surprised me, shook me out of my thoughts.  I let myself be carried along by Debussy’s graceful arabesques. I was tempted to shut my eyes, but the show was also visual.

 He turned towards me: “Make yourself as absent as possible; I don’t want to hear or see you, I just want to know that you’re somehow present.”

 Following this last piece of advice, I kept quiet though I remained anxious. He took off his jacket, his pullover, his movements followed on smoothly from each other, gracious, airy, in an unexpected choreography.

 Finally, I saw his torso, his shirt slipping over white smooth skin that reflected the spot-light shining down on him.

 His gestures became more definite, his hands slid over his body, sometimes gently brushing it; he turned around on the spot very slowly, offering this body to my attentive being.  His skin played with the light in a game of shadows and moving reflections, strange, surreal, like accomplices to each other.

 Very slowly he removed his trousers, turning around to face me. At certain moments, G... would shut his eyes in ecstasy.  His clothes, like dead leaves, silent, fell off, or rather piled up, dried up and became inanimate as soon as they were no longer twirling around his body.


G... was now wearing just his briefs, he was rocking slightly, first with his back to me, then facing me, gently touching his thighs, his buttocks, his lower abdomen, pretending to take off that which stopped his revelation from being complete.

 Then his briefs slightly revealed his buttocks, just the top of his buttocks, or rather the curve of the small of his back. His hands seemed to hesitate, climbed again to the base of his neck, towards his shoulders that he caressed before going down again to his hips. The briefs fell a little lower.

 The music unfurled in convolutions suddenly loaded with significant meaning.  G... illustrated it by giving to the music its sacred and sensual function.

 His hands crept between the forms hidden by the unwelcome piece of cloth which would eventually have to disappear. The bulging skin was becoming clearer, surrounded by his nudity that was increasing little by little as the protective envelope was opening.

 All of a sudden, his buttocks popped out, very white, exaggeratedly curved and saturated by the light, dazzling with light.

 He directed them towards me, gently bent forward, then slowly turned around on the spot. His gestures which had appeared to be hesitant, started to become more definite, and were making him look like the master of his craft.

 A kind of black moss appeared a couple of inches below his bellybutton, who knows how it had washed up on this rock that was his body?  It seemed to grow with each breath, with each movement.  I couldn’t take my eyes of it, it fascinated me. He was in front of me, his skin trembling, his briefs, slightly lowered, were molded around his lower abdomen.  G... spread his legs, arched his back in order to give to his movements their full power, and to emphasize a nascent secret, dark, lost in mystery and shadow.

 The form of his member was more or less clear depending on his mobile and capricious bending movements; he was showing more and more of this intimate receptacle. The black shadow, curly, was growing, undulating, independent of the whiteness that surrounded it, that interrogated it.

 Finally, little by little, in small movements, almost as if oiled, his briefs fell down, were set free from his crotch and his thighs and, when this Adonis finally revealed his member, when it was finally in the open, free, offered up to me, directed by the light, when he opened his legs while bending backwards, his arms and the tips of his fingers reaching to the floor, ready to take off for a supreme flight, I realized that I wanted him.

Lorsqu’il me téléphona ce soir-là, ce fut pour me dire d’une voix craintive et anxieuse à la fois qu’il devait me voir, que c’était important, vital même pour lui.

 Par moments, il s’arrêtait net, laissant la conversation en suspens, et je le sentais désarmé, en proie à une angoisse croissante.

 Je finis par l’inviter chez moi lorsqu’il me prévint avec réticence qu’il ne pouvait s’étendre plus longuement sur un sujet aussi délicat.

 Dans l’intervalle, je ne laissai pas de m’interroger sur cette démarche inattendue: je connaissais G... depuis trois ans et nos relations suivies s’étaient clairsemées un an et demi auparavant, pour devenir plus rares, voire occasionnelles. Pourquoi cette hâte à me rencontrer et en même temps cette contrainte au silence qui le faisait hésiter sur des phrases pourtant préparées avec soin, lui si habile rhéteur il y a trois ans ? Quel autre changement cette métamorphose présageait-elle en lui, en moi...?


 La sonnette stridente, inquisitrice, me tira de l’embarras. C’était lui. Physiquement, il était resté le même : mince, les cheveux bruns, fous et raides, une grande mèche tumultueuse balayant le front haut… jusqu’aux lunettes qui ne quittaient guère le bout de son nez.

 Nous étions l’un face à l’autre, quelque peu gênés; nous n’osions nous regarder dans les yeux. D’une main tremblante  -m’a-t-il semblé- il a pris la mienne, l’a serrée un peu mollement.

 “Alors c’est chez toi...” a-t-il prononcé enfin, semblant par la banalité de ces propos envisager une ouverture lointaine. Il attendait visiblement que j’ouvre le feu mais l’attente est une de mes qualités; je masque mon impatience et reste imperturbable lorsque les circonstances l’exigent. Je l’observais comme le chat guette la souris. J’étais en position de supériorité. Comment quelqu’un de si détendu dans la conversation, auparavant, pouvait-il se cloîtrer ainsi dans le silence ?

 Il s’est résolu à céder, son regard soudain a accroché le mien pour ne plus le lâcher:

 “Depuis quelque temps, un rêve étrange et pénétrant (je reconnaissais bien là ce passionné de littérature) m’obsède, m’enferme en moi -du moins je m’enferme en lui, je ne sais, et ce rêve te concerne directement, étroitement, te met en cause...”

 L’attaque. Je l’attendais, la pressentais; je savais qu’il ne se laisserait pas longtemps poser le pied sur le corps dans l’attitude suppliante du vaincu. Il allait et venait dans la pièce maintenant, plus détendu; la parole, bien qu’un peu maladroite encore, reprenait ses droits. G... redevenait celui que j’avais connu, qui m’avait attiré par cette supériorité intellectuelle tranquille et justifiée qu’il affichait lorsqu’il prenait position.

 J’étais bercé à nouveau par ces phrases filées de certitude dans lesquelles le fond et la forme s’équilibraient sans cesse. Ne disait-il pas toujours: “La forme habille le fond. Reste à savoir si l’on souhaite être bien vêtu ou en haillons”.

 Il avait retrouvé le costume seyant et distingué des premiers jours. Brusquement il s’arrêta, au bord de l’embarras. La révélation essentielle lui coupait le souffle:” Il s’agit de quelque chose d’inattendu; à chaque fois, je rêve que je me livre à une sorte de spectacle devant toi qui en es le témoin silencieux, approbateur”.

 Le grincement de nouveau. La rupture. Je le regardais d’un air plutôt bienveillant, l’encourageant à parler.

 “Il s’agit d’une sorte de révélation... Oui, c’est cela, je me révèle à toi d’une manière renouvelée, et à chaque fois dans les mêmes conditions, dans cet appartement-là...”

 Je ne comprenais pas, ou avais-je peur de comprendre ? Il finit par se mettre la corde autour du coup:” Tu comprendrais peut-être mieux cette attitude de la part d’une femme… Encore faut-il faire la part de préjugés moraux, intellectuels, donc sociaux”.

 La porte bâillait, s’entrouvrait sur sa vérité intérieure, son obsession même, mais je désirais un aveu dussé-je le provoquer par un subtil jeu moiré de questions-réponses.

 —Je suis le spectateur ?

 —Oui, tu es le spectateur d’une pièce, de ma pièce dans laquelle j’ai tout prévu, y compris les décors...les costumes...

 Il s’arrêta à nouveau, la confusion au bord des lèvres et habillant ses joues. G... avait buté sur le mot “costumes”, du moins ce terme avait-il abordé un système de références intérieures qui semblait le charger de culpabilité.

 Que faire ? Je décidai d’en finir:” Allons, il faut conclure”.

 Alors nettement, en articulant et détachant exagérément les syllabes, il avoua: “Je rêve fréquemment que je me déshabille devant toi; peut-être ce dépouillement physique cache-t-il, symbolise-t-il une révélation plus profonde mais je crois qu’il me faudrait satisfaire ce désir pour en être à jamais débarrassé et rassuré. (Il redevenait prolixe.) Je ne cherche pas à expliquer les mobiles de cette envie; il me faut la satisfaire...


 Comment ne pas aquiescer à cette demande. J’étais, je l’avoue, intrigué, curieux même d’assister au déroulement de cette “pièce de théâtre” qui s’apparentait plus à un numéro d’effeuillage de cabaret qu’à autre chose, du moins à ce qu’il paraissait.

 Mon coeur battait un peu. Je laissai G... diriger les opérations à sa guise, choisir la scène, disposer les éléments du décor.

 Soudain, il me fixa de nouveau:

 —Il faudrait un fond musical.

 —Est-ce à moi de choisir ?


 Je réfléchis... Une musique sensuelle, légère, irréelle conviendrait certainement.

 —Jeux et le Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune de Debussy.

 —Très bien.

 Je me calai dans mon fauteuil, en l’occurence le divan unique que recélait mon appartement. J’étais au spectacle, j’attendais la “suite des événements”.

 La musique me surprit, me tira de mes réflexions. Je me laissai bercer par les ararbesques de Debussy. Pour un peu, j’aurais fermé les yeux, mais le spectacle

était aussi visuel.

 Il se tourna vers moi: “Eclipse-toi au maximum; je ne veux ni te voir, ni t’entendre, tout en te sachant présent”.

 Fort de cette ultime recommandation, je me tins coi, aux aguets pourtant. Il avait ôté sa veste, puis son pull-over, les mouvements s’enchaînaient, gracieux, aériens, dans une chorégraphie inattendue.

 Enfin son torse apparut et la chemise glissa sur une peau blanche, lisse, et reflétant la lumière du projecteur dirigé sur lui.

 Ses gestes se firent plus précis, ses mains glissaient sur son corps et le frôlaient parfois; il tournait sur place très lentement en offrant ce corps à mon attention. Sa peau jouait avec la lumière en un jeu d’ombres et de reflets mouvants, étrange, surréel, complice.

 Il retira son pantalon très lentement en pivotant pour me faire face. Par moments, G... fermait les yeux en proie à l’extase. Ses vêtements, feuilles mortes silencieuses, tombaient, ou plutôt se posaient, exsangues et inanimés dès qu’ils ne tournoyaient plus autour de son corps.


 G... était en slip maintenant, ondulant doucement, de dos, puis de face, effleurant ses cuisses, ses fesses, son bas-ventre, faisant mine d’enlever ce qui l’empêchait de se révéler tout à fait.

 Puis  le slip découvrit très légèrement ses fesses,le haut de ses fesses, la cambrure des reins plutôt.  Ses mains parurent hésiter, remontèrent vers la base du cou, les épaules qu’elles caressaient en descendant vers les hanches. Le slip glissa encore un peu.

 La musique se déployait en circonvolutions subitement chargées d’un sens éloquent. G... l’illustrait en lui restituant sa fonction sacrale et sensuelle.

 Ses mains s’insinuaient entre les formes cachées par le tissu importun qui s’éclipserait enfin. La peau bombée se révélait davantage, cernée par la nudité croissant à mesure que s’ouvrait l’enveloppe protectrice.

 Ses fesses jaillirent soudain, très blanches, au galbe prononcé et saturées de lumière, éblouissantes de lumière.

 Il les dirigea vers moi, se pencha très lentement en avant, puis se retourna en pivotant toujours très lentement. Ses gestes, d’hésitants qu’ils semblaient, se précisaient davantage, le faisant apparaître comme le maître de son art.

 Une mousse noire surgit à quelques centimètres du nombril, échouée on ne savait comment sur le rocher mouvant de son corps; elle semblait croître à chaque inspiration, à chaque geste. Je ne pouvais en détacher les yeux, elle me fascinait. Il était devant moi, la peau frémissante, et son slip baissé quelque peu moulait son bas-ventre. G... écartait les jambes,

cambrant les reins pour mettre en valeur ses mouvements et ce secret naissant, noir de mystère et d’ombre.

 La forme de son sexe se dessinait plus ou moins nettement au gré des plis mobiles et capricieux; il découvrait de plus en plus ce réceptacle intime. Cette ombre noire, frisée, croissait, ondulait, indépendamment de la blancheur qui la cernait et la questionnait de toute part.

 Enfin, petit à petit, par mouvements très doux, presque huilés, le slip descendit, s’échappa de l’entre-jambes et des cuisses, et, lorsque l’éphèbe découvrit ce sexe enfin ouvert, offert, tendu vers moi, canalisé par la lumière, lorsqu’il entrouvrit les jambes en fléchissant vers l’arrière, les bras et l’extrémité des doigts tendus vers le sol, prêt à l’envol suprême, je compris que je le désirais.